During our road trip through Ireland, we took a boat trip to the majestic Skellig Islands. The islands are situated about 10 kilometers off the coast of Portmagee in county Kerry. Imagine beautiful views of the Irish landscape, thousands of birds flying around and a magnificent historic site. It’s fair to say that this boat trip is one of the highlights of my trip to Ireland, if not the highlight!
The Skellig Islands consist of two islands near the Irish coast. The biggest island, Skellig Michael, rises 218 meters above sea level. On the top of this imposing rock you can find a well preserved monastic settlement. During the 6th and 12th centuries monks used to live on this island in bee hive huts. The huts gave shelter to 12 monks and can still be seen to this day. Completely isolated from the mainland, the monks survived on a diet of fish, sea birds’ eggs and vegetables grown on the island.
In 1996 the Skellig Islands became a UNESCO heritage site. The Ireland’s Department of Heritage conserved the site and created the Visitor experience. Besides the magnificent nature reserve and historic site, the Skellig Islands have become famous as the film set of the latest Star Wars movies.
The smaller island, called the Small Skelligs, is home to 23.000 pairs of gannets. Trust me when I say that is a huge amount of birds: it is the second largest gannet colony in the world for a reason! Yet, wildlife is not only found on the Small Skelligs. On the neighboring rock Skellig Michael you will find the adorable-looking puffins (don’t know what they look like? Imagine small, flying penguins). And if you’re lucky, you might even spot dolphins and whales in the ocean. There’s lots and lots to see at the Skellig Islands…
The boat trips to Skellig Island depart from the fishing village Portmagee. This small picturesque village is a perfect stop when driving the ring of Kerry: enjoy some fresh fish & chips from the local shop at the pier whilst taking in the relaxed atmosphere of this fishing village. If you’re looking for some more excitement, Portmagee is also a must-visit. About 2 kilometers of the village are the Kerry Cliffs: a magnificent set of cliffs rising from the sea.
There are two types of tours to the Skellig Islands; a landing tour and an eco tour. The eco tour departs multiple times a day from the Portmagee marina and goes around both islands. The landing tour leaves once a day and will actually land on Skellig Michael. As both tours are popular it is advisable to book well in advance, especially the landing tour.